10 Queer Books From Indie Presses You Definitely Don’t Want to Miss This Year
I’ve always appreciated indie presses, but 2021 was the year I truly fell in love with them. Last year was an incredible year for small press books (I mean, every year is), and especially queer books from indie presses. I read and loved And Then the Gray Heaven (Dzanc Books), A Natural History of Transition (Metonymy Press), Crip Kinship (Arsenal Pulp Press), Love in the Big City (Titled Axis Press), and Borealis (Coffee House Press), to name just a few.
All of this amazing queer lit has made me hungry for more queer books from indie presses. There is so much out there to discover! Indie presses are doing such important work: publishing queer books in translation, books that push the boundaries of genre, radical works of fiction and nonfiction that change the way I think about storytelling. I am so grateful that these publishers exist, that they are uplifting the voices of so many queer writers and bringing so many different kinds of queer stories into the world.
These ten upcoming indie press books are just ten of the many I can’t wait to get my hands on. This list reflects my personal interests, so it’s heavily weighted toward contemporary fiction and hybrid nonfiction. But no matter what kind of queer book you’re craving, I guarantee you’ll find something here to fall in love with. These ten books are a great representation of just how varied queer lit from indie presses is.
And the Category Is… by Ricky Tucker (Beacon Press)
Like many others, I devoured the TV show Pose, which often feels like a love letter to Ballroom culture. So I’m excited to read this book, which looks at the complex history of Ballroom culture and community, its influence on pop culture, the ways it’s been appropriated, and its relevance today. A blend of history and interviews, this book is a celebration of Ballroom, and the Black and Latine LGBTQIA+ people who created it.
Panpocalypse by Carley Moore (The Feminist Press, March 8th)
I’ve already had the pleasure of reading this one, and all I can say is get ready. It’s a tender, funny, and heartbreaking exploration of pandemic life, queerness across time, disability, and the ups and downs of community. Set in New York in the spring of 2020, it follows Orpheus, a queer disabled woman who bikes around the city, reflecting on her life and trying to hang on to human connection in a world increasingly devoid of it.
Side Affects by Hil Malatino (University of Minnesota Press, April 14)
In this academic work, Hil Malatino acknowledges and makes space for the negative feelings that can come with being trans and living in a transphobic world — exhaustion, alienation, burnout. He posits that these bad feelings are rarely talked about because talking about them can be seen to reinforce transphobia, but that talking about them is not only necessary, it can provide new possibiltles for thriving trans futures. I love a book that challenges me, and this one sounds like a worthy challenge.
Violets by Shin Kyung-sook, Translated by Anton Hur (The Feminist Press, April 14)
In rural South Korean in the 1970s, a girl named San has a close friendship with Namae. But after a moment of intimacy, Namae rejects her. Years later, in her early 20s, San is working in a flower shop, where she interacts with customers and coworkers, including a photographer with whom she becomes obsessed. As she goes about her days, San is haunted by the memory of Namae. This quiet, powerful novel explores violence, girlhood, young womanhood, desire, and queerness.
The Other Mother by Rachel M. Harper (Counterpoint, May 3)
There’s nothing I love more than a queer family saga, so I can’t wait to get my hands on this one! Jenry was raised by a single mother in Miami. Wanting to know more about the father he never knew, he enrolls at Brown, where his grandfather, Winston, is a professor. But instead of encouraging Jenry’s search for his father, his grandfather tells him that he should be looking for Winston’s daughter Juliet, his mother’s lover. Slowly, Jenry begins to unravel all the unknown pieces of his family’s history.
This Has Always Been a War by Lori Fox (Arsenal Pulp Press, May 3)
In this collection of essays, Lori Fox confronts the capitalist patriarchy and all of its violences. Drawing on their experiences as queer, nonbinary, and working class, they examine capitalism through both personal and political lenses — proving how the personal is always political. The essays explore the intersections of gender, sexuality, race, and geography, bearing witness to the ways capitalism harms the most marginalized among us, and offering a vision for a different future.
Bad Girls by Camila Sosa Villada, Translated by Kit Maude (Other Press, May 3)
Growing up in a small town in Argentina, Camilla has always known she’s a girl. Longing to escape her abusive father and make a life for herself, she leaves to attend university in the city, where she meets a group of trans sex workers. One of these women, the 178-year-old Auntie Encarna, takes Camilla under her wing, offering her refuge in her house. Camilla soon finds herself part of a family she never dreamed existed. This poignant trans coming-of-age novel was published in Spanish in 2019, and I’m excited it’s now available in English.
Brown Neon by Raquel Gutiérrez (Coffee House Press, June 7)
In these essays, Raquel Gutiérrez explores the intersections of place and queerness, history and landscape, family and gender. She delves into the physical realities of the southwestern landscape, gender expression, lesbian history, past romances, and more. I have yet to read an essay collection from Coffee House Press that hasn’t been incredible, and I have no doubt this book will be full of big questions with complicated, ever-shifting answers.
Nuclear Family by Joseph Han (Counterpoint, June 7)
Whenever Alexander Chee mentions a novel, I sit up and take note; I’ve been excited to read this one since I saw him rave about it a while back. The story follows a Korean American family wrestling with the reverberations of the actions of their oldest son, who tries to cross the Demilitarized Zone into North Korea. It’s a family saga that explores migration, violence, history, healing, and the crossable and uncrossable spaces between people.
Voice of the Fish by Lars Horn (Graywolf, June 7)
A collection of linked essays that explores trans identity, gender, illness, travel, and the body, thematically linked by themes of fish, water, and the ocean. Sign me up. This book blends mythology, marine history, theology, and philosophy with Horn’s personal experiences. It sounds like exactly the kind of brilliant, genre-busting nonfiction that makes me grateful for indie presses every day.
Looking for even more books from indie presses? (Because there’s nothing we love more around here than an infinitely-expanding TBR.) Check out this amazing list of 24 must-read 2022 books in translation, featuring 17 different presses! You might also be interested in this list of 2022 debuts and this treasure trove of delights in the indie press archives.